This morning, Mr Justice Peart of the High Court granted our client leave to bring Judicial Review proceedings against the Minister for refusing to process and determine his application for Family Reunification in respect of his wife and young daughter. Our client, who is an Afghan refugee, submitted the application for Family Reunification for his wife and daughter in November 2009, some two years ago.
When we were first instructed on the case in August 2011, we made strong submissions to the Minister that our client had a statutory entitlement to be reunited with his wife and daughter, pursuant to Section 18 of the Refugee Act 1996 as amended. We also submitted that the delay in determining the application was in breach of our clients rights under Irish and EU law, and highlighted previous guidance from the High Court that a reasonable processing timeframe would be between six and twelve months.
To the distress of our client, the Family Reunification Section responded to confirm that his application had been “on hold” since September 2010 because the Minister was investigating his case for a possible revocation of his refugee status. Our client had never been notified of this proposal to revoke his refugee status, or the postponement of this family reunification application. Furthermore, he had no understanding as to what grounds the Minister was making this proposal. We wrote numerous letters to the Minster Decisions Unit of the Department seeking a copy of the notification of a proposal to revoke and the grounds upon which this proposal was made, but neither were provided to us in breach of the Minister’s statutory obligation pursuant to Section 21 (3) of the Refugee Act 1996. Meanwhile, the Family Reunification Section continued to refuse to process and determine the application.
Our client was initially very reluctant to resolve this matter by way of High Court proceedings, as he previously had to bring a High Court case to challenge the initial refusal of the Minister to grant him refugee status, and that process had taken approximately three years. We therefore submitted a Freedom of Information Application to the Minister in an attempt to find out what reasons the Minister had for refusing to process his family reunification application and proposing to revoke his refugee status. Unfortunately, nearly all the relevant documents were withheld on the basis that an investigation was being carried out.
Our client is understandably distraught by the on going delay of two years in determining his application for Family Reunification. His wife is now pregnant with their second child and they live in very difficult conditions as exiled refugees in Pakistan. The family had hoped and planned to have their child born in Ireland, in which case he or she would be an Irish citizen by birth. Our client was therefore left with no option but to bring the matter to the High Court to seek an order compelling the Minister to proceed with his application to be reunited with his family.
Despite the fact that leave to bring Judicial Review proceedings has now been issued, we hope for our client’s sake that this matter can still be resolved in the short term. If the Minister provides an undertaking to consider and determine the family reunification application within the coming weeks, and provides our client with a proper proposal to revoke refugee status clearly stating the grounds upon which the proposal is made, there would be no need for the case to proceed to a substantive hearing before the High Court. In this way, lengthy further delays would be avoided for our clients, as would substantial legal costs.